Of 188 registered, 84 are women

LG: Indicating good turnout, a total of 188 people have registered for the functional literacy test (FLT) as of yesterday in Samdrupjongkhar.

But the majority of the people have applied for the posts of tshogpa, mangmi, and thromde theumi. Only a few have applied for the posts of gup, excluding the incumbent gups.

Gewog officials submitted the forms while some registered personally with the dzongkhag election office.

The number also excludes those who have appeared for the exam during the last local government election. Although, accurate data was not available with the office, almost 300 had appeared for the FLT.

Of the 188 registered, 84 are women. The majority of the women are school drop outs and those who completed non-formal education.

The number of women who have registered are more than expected.

Continuous awareness programmes on the importance of women participation in politics by non-government organisations (NGO) and the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) was attributed.

However, most of them are vying for the post of tshogpa and mangmi except for one graduate who has applied for the post of gup. Officials said they can still change what post they intend to stand for if they want after the exam.

Of the 84 women, 50 had registered through the election office while 34 registered through NGO BENEW, during a two-day workshop that ended yesterday on potential leaders conducted in Samdrupjongkhar.

Although the turn out for women is good officials are yet to screen the lists and determine eligibility. To appear for the exam a candidate should be of age 25 and above.

Dzongkhag election officer Norbu Wangdi said the dzongkhag achieved its target of encouraging at least 50 to participate in the election.

With the registration deadline set on April 15, officials are expecting more women. The FLT will take place in respective gewogs unlike before where a common centre was set up for three or more gewogs. This is being done to encourage more participation.

Norbu Wangdi said of the total registered, there are a few civil servants and a few people who have registered just to acquire the certificate.

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Tashi Pelki who studied till class three from Dewathang said she has always wanted to participate in the election and this time, she is leaving no stone unturned to prepare for the FLT.

This is her second attempt after she couldn’t appear in the first FLT owing to a personal reason.

Tashi Pelki is vying for the post of tshogpa and said it was her undying confidence that made her attempt for a second time. This time she is confident she will pass the FLT.

“I want to start from scratch and that is why I’ll first try for the tshogpa post because without having any experience we cannot aim for the sky,” she said. “I have seen our present tshogpas perform and I feel I can carry off my responsibility.”

Sangay Choden, 28 who is vying for the post of mangmi, said she wants to try her luck as a mangmi because they already have a capable gup who would possibly re-contest. She feels at least some of the gewog officials should be female.

There is a need to change mindsets, many women interviewed by this paper said. They said it is mindsets and not the lack of confidence that holds women back.

Many expressed that the mindset-that men are more capable as leaders and that women lack knowledge of political issues-can only be changed by women.

“If Lyonpo Dorji Choden can become a minister, I am sure I can at least become a tshogpa,” Dorji Choden, who is vying for a tshogpa post and who shares the same name as the minister, said. “But the saddest part in politics is people vote for their favourites just because they know each other or they are their uncle or brother.”

There are 21,825 registered voters in Samdrupjongkhar as of now but officials are still receiving new voter registrations.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar 

In an earlier version of this story the total number of women to have registered was said to be 62. It is in fact 84 women, of which 34 registered through NGO BENEW.